A thirsty Pasadena lawn morphs into a stunning, drought-tolerant habitat for hummingbirds

We're asking Southern California readers to share photos of their lawn-to-drought-garden makeovers. Here’s how one Pasadena homeowner did it:

Thirst is a relative term when it comes to David Rose’s Pasadena yard, as he exchanged water-hungry St. Augustine grass for a hummingbird habitat filled with drought-tolerant plants.

“I go through a quart of hummingbird feeder a day in addition to what they are eating in the yard,” Rose says.

He stopped watering his 1,900-square-foot lawn a year ago and finished it off completely with the herbicide Roundup. It was dead in two weeks.

Before he replanted the front yard, Rose met with designer Sabrina Marie Swanson-Schnecklothat Armstrong Garden Center in Pasadena, which offers garden and water-wise consultations. (Rose paid $400 for four hours of a designer’s time, which came with a $100 credit toward plants.)

Two crape myrtle trees were installed, followed by a colorful plant palette that attracts both hummingbirds and bees: Bright orange Lion’s tail (leonotis leonurus), lavender, white- and hot pink-colored “Hot Lips” sage (salvia microphylla), Russian sage (perovskia atriplicifolia), kangaroo paw (anigozanthos), dwarf periwinkle (vinca minor) and blue fescue ornamental grass along the pathway to the house.

A liquidambar tree offers shade and semi-privacy in a newly created seating area lined with decomposed granite. The new niche comes with views of the San Gabriel Mountains and gives Rose an opportunity to connect with neighbors.

Rose also removed the grass parking strips located between the sidewalk and street and replaced them with decomposed granite, upright rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) and Japanese barberry (berberis thunbergii).

Despite its relative infancy, the yard has the look of a lush, established landscape.

“Everything grew really fast,” says Rose. "It's surprising, as everything we planted was in a one-gallon container. The lion’s tail was the only thing that was in a five-gallon container.”

To help save even more water, Rose installed a drip irrigation system that he uses twice a week. He received a small rebate from the Metropolitan Water District but is most pleased by the communal aspects of his new yard.  

“It’s a nice neighborly outdoor space to converse with walkers, and the mountain view is great,” Rose says. “The bees, hummingbirds and neighborhood cats love it,  and so do I. It’s much better than five tons of gravel and a single cactus.”

If you'd like to submit photos of your drought garden makeover, please do so at Home@latimes.com. Bonus points if you include a "before" image as well.


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